Old Stone Basement Foundation FAQ

This is part of a series of blog entries that will feature mason, Randy Ruth.

Randy was the former lab technician at LimeWorks.us and received lots of questions on masonry and the use of our materials. We post some of these questions on our blog.  Look for “FAQ” in other titles of our blog.

Q: I have an old stone basement foundation (house was built in 1900) and need to “re-point” or fill in holes in the basement walls. Would your Ecologic mortar work? I am not sure that lime based mortar was used originally; would this still be OK or how can I tell if lime was used?

A: “cement” was not produced in the United States until 1870 in Coplay, PA, only up until around 1910 was Portland cement starting to find its place in society as a masonry binder. Prior to 1910, most mortars used were based on either lime putty, Natural hydraulic quicklime, or natural cement. Regardless of what the exact mix design was used to build your basement foundation, Ecologic™ Mortar would most likely be suitable for repointing your old stone basement foundation walls as it would be sympathetic to the adjacent mortar mix by maintaining good vapor permeability. An easy way to determine if you have a lime based mortar, especially in stone construction, is to break a piece from the wall and visually inspect for any white nodules or specks. The white nodules are an indicator of what is called a “hot lime” mix and commonly found in stonework. Any presence of those nodules or specks suggests a high lime content mortar, and should thus be repaired with a comparable material.

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Phone: 215-536-6706

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Let’s Talk Sand

Our Ecologic™ Mortar uses a sharp well graded proprietary blend, so it’s not just ANY Sand!

The dictionary definition of Sand: weathered particles of rocks, usually high in silica, smaller than gravels and larger than silts, typically between about 0.06 mm to 5 mm. The particles are hard and will not crumble. Sand is used as an aggregate in mortars, plasters and renders as well as a component in concretes. The properties of sand used in a mix have a major effect on its workability, final strength and durability.

The types of sand normally used in building are:

  1. Sharp sand: consists of predominantly sharp angular grains. Clean well graded sharp sand for mortar, render and plaster is selected as the best for the strength and durability it imparts to the finished work. Workability is improved by mixing with fat lime as the binder and allowing this to stand as coarse stuff (not possible with OPC as a binder on its own).
  2. Coarse sand: A sand which is composed of predominantly large and medium sized grains. The higher the proportion of large grains, then the coarser the sand. Coarse sand is used for external renders and mortars to improve durability. Very coarse sands usually require a lime binder, blending with other sands or the addition of a plasticizer to assist workability. Sharp coarse sand is the most durable but the least workable, although suitable for roughcast.
  3. Soft sand: A sand which is composed of predominantly small and rounded grains. It often has a set content, the proportion of which is variable. It feels soft in the hand when squeezed. The smallest rounded particles assist workability but can give rise to cracking and failure in the finished work.
  4. Well-graded sand: A sand with an approximately even particle size distribution. As the smaller particles may fit in between the larger particles, this even distribution reduces the proportion of voids to solids and thus is less demanding on the binder than poorly-graded sand.
  5. Blended sand: A blend of sands of different grain sizes and sharpness to achieve a good particle size distribution. This provides a balance between durability and workability. Used mostly in connection with plaster for backing coats and pointing mortar when the quality of available sand needs to be improved. Sand may be blended by sieving it to adjust the particle size proportions, or by using sands from different sources.

Taken from Ecole d’Avignon/Re’seau Art Nouveau

Click here to read more about the ‘right’ sand for your mortar project.

Sand

Presented by LimeWorks.us
Phone: 215-536-6706

LimeWorks.us (FaceBook : Google+ : LinkedIn : Twitter : YouTube)